Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Breeders' Cup Memoirs--Bobby Frankel

by Christina Bossinakis

   The 2008 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita is without a doubt among my top BC picks, because it encompasses both the rise and denouement of one of history’s greatest American trainers, Bobby Frankel. That year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint featured Juddmonte’s Ventura, a raven-colored mare who was as fiery as she was fast, possessing as strong a sense of self as I’d ever seen in a racehorse. In fact, I remember thinking, if I could come back to this life as a horse, I would be Ventura. Closing from far off a crisp pace, Ventura left the likes of Indian Blessing and Zaftig in her dust. However, most of whom were on hand that day--myself include--had no way of knowing they had just witnessed Bobby’s final Breeders’ Cup win.
   In what would turn out to be both a figurative and literal passing of the baton, the undercard featured a young trainer making his Breeders’ Cup debut. Chad Brown, who served as one of Frankel’s main assistants for five years, went out on his own at the end of 2007 after saddling the Adena Springs-raced mare Ginger Punch prior to her victory in the GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Monmouth. It was at the time that I met Chad, and I made regular stops by the Frankel barn to check on the mare and chat with my new friend. Fast forward a year, Chad ventured west with a graded-stakes winning filly named Maram. Always looking for a good story, I dropped by to say hello and, following a full-blown TDN feature, and more importantly, a win in the 2008 Juvenile Fillies Turf later in the week, Chad went from backstretch to big time in the blink of an eye. 
Steve Sherack Photo
   In what could have been a fitting finale for her legendary trainer, Ventura returned to Santa Anita in 2009 to try and defend her Breeders’ Cup title. With owner Prince Kahlid Abdullah in attendance, she was both the sentimental and logical choice to round out the career of the Hall of Fame trainer. But it was not to be. Hampered by a modest early pace and, most unfortunate to run into the ultra-talented filly Informed Decision, Ventura mounted a gallant challenge late but had to settle for second best that day. Less than a month later, Bobby passed away after losing his battle with Cancer. There would be no storybook ending this time. And while it would have been nice to have Europe’s super star Frankel (GB) round out his career on Breeders’ Cup day in his namesake’s former stomping ground, Bobby’s legacy continues to live on through all the people and horses formerly associated with the great trainer.
   Go Awesome Feather.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Guest Blog: Pedigree Observations on New York Showcase Day

by Carly Silver

Last Saturday, I soaked in the sun and Thoroughbred stars at Belmont Park’s Showcase Day. After grabbing myself a piece of pumpkin pie from the farmer’s market, I set myself up with a Daily Racing Form at a table with several cigar-smoking handicappers, most of whom seemed to be named “Mike.” Then, I made my way to the paddock and gazed on the finest equines NY had to offer.

One of the first to catch my eye was Risky Rachel. Winner of last year’s Iroquois Stakes, Risky Rachel, set to compete in that day’s edition of the Iroquois, is no slouch in the pedigree department. Indeed, the Limehouse filly is New York-bred royalty. Her second dam, Lolli Lucka Lolli, produced state champ and millionaire Say Florida Sandy, as well as Risky Rachel’s dam, New York champion Dancin Renee.  Other close-up relatives include grade I winner Forest Danger.

The bright chestnut with a heart-shaped mark on her forehead was the aptly named Miss Valentine. The Iroquois’ second-place finisher, Miss Valentine, is a daughter of dual-classic winning champ Afleet Alex. Alex’s female line traces to Bonus, dam of 1931 Derby and Belmont victor Twenty Grand.

`Mike' was wrong: Willet looks in pretty good shape here.
NYRA Photo: Jessica Hansen
Though one fellow paddock observer noted she seemed out of shape, Willet, a four-year-old Jump Start filly, ended up taking the Iroquois. Her female family’s more recent descendants include the hardy Red Scamper, veteran of 112 starts. Another notable—albeit more distant—relative was Souepi, twice Chile’s leading sire in the 1960s, who was a son of Willet’s seventh dam, Sousse.

Unfortunately for me, I chose second-place finisher Saginaw to win the six-furlong Hudson Stakes. One of the Mikes at my table, though, selected eventually victor Mine Over Matter, who covered the distance in a quick 1:10.2. Ironically, that colt is bred to go a distance—his sire is champion older horse Mineshaft (by Belmont winner A.P. Indy), while his dam, Hansel’s Girl, is by Preakness and Belmont victor Hansel. Mine Over Matter’s second dam, Dancing Mahmoud, also foaled millionaire Guided Tour; other close-up relatives include Grade I winner (and decent sire) Yonaguska and others. More distantly, the family includes the blue hen Golden Trail, ancestress of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.

Mine Over Matter is bred to go the distance, but takes the
sprint here on New York Champions Day. NYRA photo
My pick—Saginaw—also has a unique pedigree. His sire, Peruvian, was a grade III winner by Conquistador Cielo; Peruvian’s third dam was a full sister to the great Round Table. Saginaw’s female family includes 1972 Preakness winner Bee Bee Bee.

Later in the day, I watched Lunar Victory take the Empire Classic. The son of sprint champ Speightstown is from an excellent female family that includes champion two-year-old filly Pleasant Stage and grade I winner Seattle Meteor.

Carly Silver is an avid racing enthusiast and devoted student of pedigrees. She graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College, Columbia University, in May 2012. At age thirteen, Carly analyzed Smarty Jones's pedigree and picked him as the Derby winner. As a result, she received her own column, "Teen Tracks," on, which she authored throughout 2004.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall For Horses Charity Horse Show in photos... NJ and Thoroughbreds: Perfect Together

Volunteers are gearing up in Maryland for next weekend's Furlongs to Fences Thoroughbred Show. The following week, Virginia kicks off the November Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Show. But this past weekend, Thoroughbreds ruled the Garden State.  
On Sunday, the Fall For Horses All Thoroughbred Charity Horse Show was hosted at the Horse Park of New Jersey by Second Call Thoroughbred Adoption and Placement, a registered nonprofit organization dedicated to New Jersey’s off-track Thoroughbreds. Serving as the exclusive aftercare program for Monmouth Park, Second Call's mission is to assist and ensure that retired racehorses find a second career. 

In addition to picture-perfect weather and over 30 diverse Thoroughbred-only classes, the show featured an eclectic group of vendors (food, gifts, equine/pet supplies, radio stations, volunteer organizations), pumpkin painting, book signings, raffles, special racehorse guests, prizes, and kids' games.
It's not easy to keep an event as big as a horse show running smoothly, but the NJ volunteers made Sunday's outing a wonderful success. It was a well-organized show, with helpful volunteers, great prizes, and a very fun atmosphere. I rarely show my horse, but I think that even I could be convinced to enter a few classes next year.  
Highlights of the day were the $1500 hunter stakes class, sponsored by Turning For Home, and a $250 jumper stakes class sponsored by Brandon W. Furlong, M.V.B. Equine Veterinarian, but the varied prize list also included dressage, costume, equitation, itty-bitty jumper, and fresh-off-the-track classes.

 Although I only had a little time to spend at the show that morning, I was treated to a dazzling display of what the Thoroughbred has to offer, from graceful dressage horses, to elegant hunters, to high-octane jumpers, to game equitation horses, to classy in-hand models.

Tyra Wiegers, trainer Emily Daignault, and Zreasun (1-0-0-0; $0)

I was delighted to see a few familiar faces, both from the racing world and from the rescue world. The last time I saw Fagedaboudit Gal, she was very thin and sore, and was sold to the feedlot at Camelot Auction. 

Fagedaboudit Gal (30-2-2-1; $86,932)
Now, she is sleek, shiny, and sound, thanks to Second Call Thoroughbred Adoption and Placement and her new owner. During the show, she greeted visitors and happily accepted carrots from fans.

Fagedaboudit Gal (30-2-2-1; $86,932)
Fagedaboudit Gal (30-2-2-1; $86,932)
Fagedaboudit Gal (30-2-2-1; $86,932)
Here are a few other horses who might be familiar faces to racing fans:
Stakes winner Fleet Valid (28-9-6-5; $382,516)
Stakes winner Fleet Valid (28-9-6-5; $382,516) and Erin Inman
Thewifedoesntknow (32-3-7-4; $95,144) and Carole Davison

Sher Got A Shot (4-1-0-0; $10,045) and Kirstyn Nuenson

Oula Moola (4-1-0-0; $11,400) and Madison Dorschutz
Saintly Sir (1-0-0-0; $250) and Jennifer Duelfer
True George (17-3-2-3; $45,016) and Melissa Smith
Hearts Flashy Fire (67-7-8-9; $178,421) and Damon Sheppard

Horses and Hope 2013 Calendar
With the help of Gina Keesling of HoofPrints, my 2012 debut calendar contained over 100 photos of auction horses. Thanks to the support of horse lovers all over, it raised nearly $40,000 for One Horse At A Time, helping hundreds of horses in need directly, and untold others indirectly through increased public awareness. Now that we have one calendar's worth of experience to draw upon, the 2013 version promises to be even more exciting, even more creative, and as always, inspirational and positive.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thewifedoesntknow Training Blog: Week 19

Part 15 in a weekly series of training blogs about Thewifedoesntknow, a Thoroughbred mare made famous by a viral YouTube video and who is now in training to be a show hunter with New Jersey-based trainer Carole Davison.  
I FINALLY wrapped up production on the Horses and Hope 2013 calendar, and it goes to print this week. After several weeks of editing, archiving, researching, and all kinds of other fun things, I got to stop by Carole's barn and visit Thewifedoesntknow, also known as Ally-Gator.   

In New Jersey, the autumn leaves are starting to peak, and the horses are all enjoying the brisk air. Ally had a spring in her step while Carole warmed her up. Her neck has become more elegant and smoothly muscled. Her chest has spread more, and her engine? It just gets bigger and bigger. Her flatwork shows great progress. She has always had a very nice walk and canter, but now her trot is catching up with her other gaits. In this photo above, I see more push from the hind end and lightness in her forehand. 

Her canter has always been lovely, but it just gets better and better. Everything comes easily to her now. Her strides are fluid and relaxed. The walk-to-canter transition is improving on both leads. She accepts contact from Carole. This mare had a good work ethic on the track, and she continues to love to work in her new career.
 I thought Ally's flatwork was impressive until I saw what she's now doing over fences. She approaches her jumping with the same enthusiasm that she has during her flatwork.

As Carole schooled her over a variety of fences for our photo session, Ally's athletic ability was breathtaking. She simply floated over everything. It is clear that she is capable of jumping much larger obstacles when the time comes. For now, Carole is taking her time and building a good, confident foundation on the mare. They mostly work on schooling grids, poles, and simple lines, but it was a thrill to see a sampling of everything this mare can do now.
 Through a one-stride gymnastic line from a cross rail to an oxer, Ally showed scope and power.
 Over a little brush box, she showed confidence.
 Over a single vertical, she showed adjustability in her distances. She has the stride, the step, the style, and the form for the hunter ring, but I could also see her doing well as an eventer, since she has so much power and is such a confident jumper. Whatever she ends up doing, she will have her own fan club and personal blogger/photographer.

Horses and Hope 2013 Calendar
With the help of Gina Keesling of HoofPrints, my 2012 debut calendar contained over 100 photos of auction horses. Thanks to the support of horse lovers all over, it raised nearly $40,000 for One Horse At A Time, helping hundreds of horses in need directly, and untold others indirectly through increased public awareness. Now that we have one calendar's worth of experience to draw upon, the 2013 version promises to be even more exciting, even more creative, and as always, inspirational and positive.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Triumph in Paris

by Christina Bossinakis
  My arrival in Paris last week was heralded by some pretty wretched weather--plenty of rain, gloom and cold. On my Transatlantic flight, I met an American from Texas, who recounted something a French colleague had told him during his 1 1/2-year stay in Paris--“The weather in Paris is like a cat, sometimes she’s nice and, aaahhh, sometimes she is mean.” Luckily for myself and my travel companion, my mother Lily, ‘she’ decided to play nice later in the day--we found some sunshine by the time we arrived at our hotel in Paris, conveniently situated right around the corner from the famed Arc de Triomphe, which honors those who fought and died for France during the revolution and Napoleonic wars. Just a brief comment regarding the monument: I have seen the Arc countless times in print and on tv, but quite frankly, it was something entirely different to see it in person. I had always assumed it would be impressive in scale and scope, but I found it far surpassed anything I could have ever imagined. Besides its obvious size, the detail and work that went into the structure left me completely awestruck. A side note: if you have any designs on climbing to the upper observation deck and Arc museum, you’ll need to be armed with good shoes, good knees and great lungs. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of standing before the mighty structure, you absolutely must plan a visit.

Piece de resistance

   As is inevitably the case, whether I am traveling for business or pleasure, if there is a racetrack (or ‘course’ for our European friends) near by, I am sure to make a stop. On a sunny and cool Sunday morning, the Bossinakis women headed off to Longchamp for France’s biggest day of racing, headlined by last weekend’s G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Busy but comfortable through the first couple races on the card, Longchamp filled up fast. Graced with a fantastic view from the upper level of the grandstand, the racecourse is punctuated by the famed Le Moulin de l’Abbaye. On a personal level, however, I was most impressed with the amphitheater style seating surrounding the paddock (think Belmont but much bigger and grander). Also, differing from most North American tracks, the horses were saddled in an adjacent saddling paddock before being brought out to be paraded in front of the masses in the main viewing enclosure. It was also interesting that, immediately following a race, all of the horses, including the race winner, are returned to the main paddock to be unsaddled before being led back to the barn area (for those unfamiliar, beware, the lads and sweaty horses do not yield to the lingering patrons). The victor is paraded past the crowd, with jockey aboard, before being led to the far side for the winner’s picture, shortly before the winner’s presentation, also conducted in the paddock. It is all a quite theatrical production and, in my opinion, a great way to entertain the casual fan who may be lacking other VIP arrangements.

Longchamp Paddock

   As one might imagine, the security on Arc day was very tight. Ahead of the Arc itself, the paddock became highly restricted, think of the Gringotts Bank in Harry Potter series (elementary, maybe, but you get the point) So much so, in fact, that an unsuspecting Bo Derek almost found herself unceremoniously ejected from the exclusive enclosure only moments before the big race. The irony was that, only an hour earlier, the famed American actress obliged the international media with a television interview in that very same paddock. I guess Longchamp’s resolute paddock ‘police’ missed that little bit. All turned out well for the star of ‘10,' however, after the doggedly persistent and seemingly unimpressed security officer was informed of her oversight. Crisis, not to mention embarrassment, averted.

CBoss poses with statue of 1991 Arc hero Suave Dancer

   While the Arc itself lost many of its headliners, including the luckless Danedream and Nathaniel in the week leading up to the marquee race, the race still managed to draw some big names. Heading into the race, I liked Japan’s Orfevre and St Nicholas Abbey. They both looked great in the moments leading up to the race, and while the former ran up to form only to be edged by Solemia, the latter was well back at the end. Regardless, the post-race ceremony was really an affair to remember, replete with elaborate presentations and interviews, not to mention a lavish procession of horse-drawn carriages presenting the winning connections to the world. It was probably one of the most extensive and opulent ceremonies I have ever seen, anywhere. Now that’s the way to cap off an elite event.

Qatar, the official sponsor of Arc day, entertained the crowd with local performers

   The only knock I had on the day, and the host, was the lack of food options for those hungry fans who weren't lodged in the luxurious boxes and marquees spread around the course. In fairness, there were plenty of crepes and gaufres (waffles), in addition to kiosks offering sugary treats if you had a hankering for something sweet, not to mention loads of wine and champagne (this is France, after all), but the real food was limited. A snack bar (read as a watering hole which was not very enticing to a pair of ladies looking for some sustenance after a long day) and what seemed to be the sole concession stand which, by the way, had run out of pizza by 4:30pm) were among the  
Olivier Peslier following
his fourth Arc win
aboard Solemia
only options available to the general crowd. The only other spot that I encountered which offered any sort of fare was a pub-style structure which provided a very basic menu (a couple of sandwiches and potato chips were the highlights). Even though I must admit I was pretty bummed about the food options (or lack thereof) by the time I walked out the door, I was later treated to a very nice dinner at one of Paris’ hot spots L’Entrecote (so hot, in fact, that there was a line all the way out to the road, and apparently, is never without a wait), located near the Porte Maillot station. A special shout out goes to Hubert Guy for the recommendation and the company. Offering only ‘steak frites’ as the main (the sauce is tremendous), the desert menu is long and varied and offers sweet delights which are as good as they get, in Paris or anywhere. And being the daughter of a Patissier (pastry chef) of the highest caliber, that says a lot.
   Ready to move on to England after a quick jaunt out to the Chateau Versailles, I considered all that I had seen and experienced during my time in Paris. The Chateau was wonderful; the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral were spectacular and the Louvre’s Pyramid and adjoining Tulleries Gardens were memorable (you must also visit at night when those structures and monuments are lit--truly awesome). But personally, I found the Arc to be the real showstopper. Quite frankly, it is only fitting that the most prestigious test in French racing should be named in honor of France's national jewel.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guineas Glory All in the Family for Epaulette

by Kelsey Riley

With Australia’s undefeated 2-year-old Triple Crown champion Pierro lining up for Saturdays G1 Caulfield Guineas at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne, the classic race is sure to provide a memorable result. Many of the Lonhro colt’s rivals have already conceded defeat, and while Pierro is certain to be a short-priced favorite, Epaulette--the colt who will be second in the betting--could make things interesting, especially if he takes after his older half-brother, last year’s Caulfield Guineas winner Helmet.

In winning last year’s edition of this race, Helmet provided one of the most exciting and impressive performances of the year, anywhere in the world. His victory in this Melbourne Guineas was visually similar to what Frankel had achieved in his own Guineas some six months earlier, except Helmet had more to prove. After winning four of five starts as a 2-year-old, including a Group 1 double in the G1 Sires Produce and G1 Champagne S. (as Pierro did this year), Helmet could manage only a pair of thirds in his first two starts of his 3-year-old campaign: the G3 Run to the Rose, and the G1 Golden Rose S., both at Rosehill in Sydney. 

Helmet at trainer Peter Snowden's Crown Lodge
yard in Sydney
The blaze-faced chestnut showed a liking for Caulfield when winning the G3 Guineas Prelude (his younger brother has already emulated him by winning that event two weeks ago), but many called Helmet’s class into question, wondering if he was capable of winning a Group 1 event against top class 3-year-olds. Two weeks later, Helmet silenced his critics in a big way. When the barriers broke, the fastest horse to the lead was Manawanui, who had beaten Helmet in his last Sydney start in the Golden Rose. Kerrin McEvoy, the jockey aboard Helmet, quickly made the decision to confront his rival immediately, and hustled Helmet forward to blow past Manawanui. McEvoy must have truly believed he had the superior horse on the day, because to make a move like that was incredibly gutsy, and was not unlike what Tom Queally pulled off aboard Frankel at Newmarket, slingshotting clear of his rivals to put it all on the line with a risky run to prove once and for all who was the best. While Helmet did not show the sheer exceleration and wide winning margin that Frankel did in his Guineas, he nonetheless turned back the challenge of Manawanui in the straight, and while the margin of victory was only a neck, it is important to realize that Manawanui did not head Helmet, even in the gallop out. Kerrin McEvoy truly knew what he had, and it showed in not only one of the best performances of the year by a horse, but by a jockey, also.

To watch Helmet’s Caulfield Guineas, click here.

The Caulfield Guineas proved to be Helmet’s crowning glory, and his last career victory before retiring to stud. He was given a tall order when facing older horses for the first time next out in the G1 Cox Plate, and put in a good effort to be eighth, beaten 4 ½ lengths. His first run of 2012 resulted in a close finish to grab fourth in the G3 C.S. Hayes S. at Caulfield, but that was the closest he ever got again to finding the finish line first. After a brief career in Dubai and England, Helmet was retired to stud at Darley’s Northwood Farm in Seymour, Victoria, and it was recently announced that he will shuttle to Kildangan Stud in Ireland for the Northern hemisphere season.   

It would be a disgrace to discuss Helmet and Epaulette without mentioning their dam, the superstar producer Accessories. A British-bred daughter of Singspiel, Accessories has produced three Group stakes winners from her first three foals. In addition to Helmet and Epaulette, her first foal was Bullbars, a son of Elusive Quality who won the G3 C.S. Hayes S. as a 3-year-old. Bullbars finished second in the G1 Australian Guineas, just 1.8 lengths away from giving Accessories three Grade 1 winners from three foals to race. published this article on Accessories a few weeks ago.

Darley's Woodlands Stud 

 Speaking of the Caulfield Guineas pedigrees, it should also be noted that while Pierro and Epaulette compete for different connections now, they were both bred by Darley, and were raised on the same pastures at the operation’s Woodlands Farm near Denman in the Hunter Valley. While Darley opted to let go of Pierro for A$110,000 as a weanling, his dam, the Irish-bred Miss Right Note, still resides at Woodlands, as does Accessories.

Darley's Woodlands Stud

 The Caulfield Guineas is certainly not a race lacking in pedigree strength. One of the dark horses of the race will be Patinack Farm’s All Too Hard, a half-brother to Australian champion Black Caviar, the world’s highest rated sprinter. While All Too Hard has been disappointing in his placings this season, he has never been beaten far, and one of his co-trainers, Wayne Hawkes, has been outspoken in the fact that he believes his colt could upset Pierro with an equipment change of sorts. Read what he had to say here.

Pierro or no Pierro, this year’s Caulfield Guineas is packed with interesting stories, and should no doubt produce an exciting outcome. For a form guide for the race, click here.